In this episode, Callum McKeefery show host and CEO of REVIEWS.io talks to Jon Ivanco, Co-founder of Formtoro.
They discuss the importance of gaining insights as to where the gaps exist in your customer journey and business,
Understanding the psychology and the philosophy behind what questions to ask, how to ask them, how to derive with that data.
The importance of understanding what you are collecting, why you are collecting it, and then leveraging that data to make better decisions - knowing how useful clean data is.
Understanding customer intent, and where to place attribution
They debate the privacy policies of big players in tech and the rise of collaboration platforms, and the importance of a brands ability to be relatable, not perfect.
Brave & Sugar Coat
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Callum: So today we have Jon Ivanco. He, Jon is the founder of Formtoro which is a, well, hold on, let me stop there. Jon would be much better at explaining what Formtoro is. Fire away Jon.
Jon: We're, we're a data collection layer. Basically, we focus on popups and other places that you'd collect data via embeds, post-purchase survey quizzes, et cetera.
And then we take that data, we look at data combinations, and then we're kind of like a BI platform behind the scenes to rank your traffic and give you insights as to where the gaps exist in your customer journey and business, whether that's your ads you know, all the way down to your landing pages, creative, et cetera.
And kind of, we work with people as more of like a hybrid consultancy tech product to help people better understand who their customers are and improve that customer journey.
Callum: What niche generally are your customers in? Are they eCommerce [00:01:00] brands or are they SaaS services or
Jon: from an integration perspective, we focused on e-commerce first. Shopify, Klaviyo, Drift, Listrak, et cetera. anything with an ESP ESP connected to it. From a platform perspective, though, we're pretty agnostic industry-wise. Like we could sit on anything and we could replace different functions of, any website, whether it's SaaS media, blog style, etcetera, anything like that.
Callum: Yeah, yeah. So you're not baked into the Shopify ecosystem or anything like that.
Jon: No, we're, we're not stuck in it. I mean, we run everything via private apps that we install. We don't have a public app. We're very, So the onboarding process for us isn't the traditional app. and we learned that very early on, kinda what we're doing. Where the idea was, Oh, we're gonna be SaaS. Everyone's gonna understand how to collect data and use it, and it's gonna be great. Turns out most people don't actually understand how to do that. And [00:02:00] they didn't understand the psychology and the philosophy behind what questions to ask, how to ask 'em, how to derive with that data.
So we pulled back from that model, and instead decided to focus on something that was a little bit more hybrid, where we could get in the trenches, help people understand what they were collecting, why they were collecting it, and then leverage that data to make better decisions. But it requires working with kind of the entire team, which was something that let's, let's just say we were very optimistic about what agencies, currently had going on and their level of expertise within understanding the customer journey. But it turned out as we went deeper kind of into the ecosystem, people are very good at singular things and no one is very good about understanding how everything works together.
Callum: Yeah, yeah. We see that definitely because we work across multiple teams and you've got these people who, really don't understand how to use the data that, that gets collected. or how to make that data making informed [00:03:00] decisions. The decision, you know, the people who are doing strategy aren't really sometimes looking at the data that's actually coming in naturally.
So, it can be a bit difficult. how did you come to found Formtoro?
Jon: It's a great story. So I'd spent, prior to Formtoro, I'd spent from 2015 2019, I'd spent that time working for a company called Life X which was in the smart home space. Our partners were Apple, Amazon, Google, all the big guys. And throughout that process of working at Life X, I took over customer support as well.
And the initial kind of problem that we had with customer support is we had limited staff and a lot of tickets. So, my intro into figuring out how to automate stuff, I'd been automating stuff for years before that. But we ended up using Typeform into Zapier, into Zendesk to categorize all of our tickets so that we had everything [00:04:00] neatly organized by topic, subject, et cetera.
And we found out by taking our exact same support articles and then breaking the med down to singular questions, we were able to get a self-solve rate of over 80%.
Callum: That's so impressive.
Jon: This was the start of understanding how useful clean data is.
Jon: So then after leaving Life X, I was working for another company, consulting with them on their go-to-market strategy.
similar thing, build the landing page, get email, sign up, send an email, get a survey, get some data back, start to figure out who your, target market is, who's interested. The problem with that is we did great. landing page had a 15% opt-in rate from cold traffic. It was spectacular. Then things started to go sideways.
email open rate was 35%, click-through rate was 10%, and then survey completion rate was 70%. So I stopped and I thought to myself the gaps that exist, or you took a point of intent, which was signing up for something.
And then you made someone leave. And then you chase them. [00:05:00] And the kind of the thought process hit off, we always ask people why they unsubscribe, but we never ask people why they subscribe in the first place.
So the paradigm shift for me was, well, people don't do it because data's not live collected. So they're afraid if they asked too many questions, they're not gonna get all the answers. Yeah. And we said, Well, what if that wasn't a problem? And we said, Well, what if we could live data collect And if they dropped off, no harm, no foul, they've already given us an email address, we'll be fine.
We'll be good to go. What? What would that look like? Could we at least get 70% of the people to, you know, give us data per our thing? Turns out if you go after that point of intent, more than 90% of people give you data. Because that is the last point of intent that we have on a website to actually typing something in checkouts.
Now are Apple Pay. Yeah, check one button. You don't have to fill out anything. Yeah. The only time you have to fill something out on a website, whether if it's a review, but most people do [00:06:00] those via email anyway these days. But it's at that point of saying, Hey, yeah, I want an offer, a discount because I am that far down the road of deciding to make a purchase.
So it's that highest point of intent that allows us to kind of collect data and figure out what's next. So we had that idea. I found my partner on Indie Hackers. we were talking back and forth for about six months. He was in between projects and he was coming from, you know, one trust, privacy, and financial banking background actually in London.
Callum: So is he the tech, is he the technical founder?
Jon: He is the technical founder. Right. Okay. And he is a pure genius when it comes to, kind of helping me with all my product background madness and trying to say what's possible, what's not possible, and how to architect things correctly. Yeah. He was working on a form project that didn't really have, a fit for it, and I was helping him with that just in terms of basic product structure, UX, UI, and then I said, Hey, we should really make [00:07:00] something with this.
There's this whole area out there that no one is touching and no one is tapping. And I know from the hundreds of thousands of dollars that companies spend on go-to-market strategies that this is a gap for them. Yeah. If we can do anything to solve this sunk cost of getting an email signed up and having 50% of people not open it and at least give them data for those 50% and you're talking.
Millions of dollars just sitting out there and just wasted spend.
Callum: So, So you met him, on Indie Hackers. That's insane. Yeah. That's insane. You mean your co-founder on Indie Hackers so how has the relationship been since obviously, I know you've been going for a couple of years now. and is it still a team of two?
Jon: We have it. We have a very complementary set of skills. We both have a lot of experience in specific areas. We both like solving problems. And at this point, in startup world, I started SaaS sales, worked my way [00:08:00] around, was marketing before that, bounced back and forth and did a lot of consulting work.
He's been a consultant, for years. Whether it was, you know, working for privacy-oriented companies, financial banking apps, real-time data like, so it just so happened to be the perfect fit, where we had complimentary skill sets and experience in, in, in data, data integrity and understanding systems process and automation.
And then I always say this, we have like an unfair advantage because I'm married to a privacy attorney too. So like we are, In the space of knowing where the world's headed from a privacy perspective, consent-based marketing and everything else. And it was just, it's his meant like everyone just came together.
Pandemic happened to slow everything down, and we were able to take a beat and, and think about it. And wow was lucky enough to be cashed out from my last company. So I had the runway to kind of figure out how do we take a gamble here and risk and figure out how [00:09:00] we can contribute to changing the way people think about what the customer journey looks like versus what we've been building for so long, which is all so company focused.
What's good for me is the company, not what's good for the customer. Like we needed to figure out a way to meet halfway in between. Yeah,
Callum: no, I, and and I love what you said there about. Thinking, Well, it's good for the company and versus good for the customer. businesses need to focus way more on the customer and have a much closer relationship.
I'm a firm believer in closest-to-the-customer wins. And what you do really helps you get there.
Jon: It's complimentary. I mean, I have so many thoughts and ideas about the review space for so many years of looking at it. Yeah. I like when you guys were released video reviews. I remember like 2015, 2016, I saying, Man, I want to go to Amazon and [00:10:00] I wanna see 60 seconds of video.
I want 20 seconds of the good, 20 seconds of the bad, 20 seconds of the overall thought process, whether or not I should buy it. That's all I wanna see. Yeah. I want it to be condensed down. I like unsexy areas. Like he uses an unsexy area for popups. Everyone's like, Oh, popups suck. They're terrible.
Popups have a hundred per cent open rate. Yeah, yeah. Like, if it's, it's not, it's how you use something, not what people's perception is of it. And I think more than anything else, we've done so many different things in the pop-up space for the last couple of years. Yeah. We did multi-use, unique coupon codes just to see how people would come back if we weren't running sales to understand removing bias of chasing people with discounts and sales and offers.
Turns out most people would buy twice in a. Like learned a lot on that. Yeah. We did a gift card, sign up where you signed up. You [00:11:00] could get a gift card auto-added to your cart. All you had to do was check out in order to claim it. 40% opt-in right from cold traffic, but I remember it comes with five data points attached to it.
So yeah, like we'd been pushing the, the kind of the limits on, on and reimagining what interactions could look like on an e eCom site in order to get people to buy in. Because we can't track 'em anymore. We can't follow 'em if we do not get that information. We are, are helpless. Yeah.
Callum: Do you see, do you still see brands, tracking a and sort of circum-navigating the, the privacy rules?
Jon: You know, a lot of people are saying, Oh, we got pixels going in. This is gonna work for us and we'll be perfectly fine here. The reality is, I always follow Brave Browser on what they're doing. Yeah, I like that crew a lot and how privacy-focused they are. And last year they unlocked something called Sugar Coat.
And if you're listening, go look up Sugar Coat and Brave. [00:12:00] Cause I've been talking about it for a while now and no one seems to understand it. the future they, they teamed up. I don't even work for 'em, but me shout. Anyway, they, they, you see California, San Diego team and Brave got together and they worked on a project and it's called Sugar Coat.
What Sugarcoat does is instead of websites breaking because of trackers where you don't see things displayed and you have to get rid of em for popup blockers, et cetera, they just replace the code with something that looks similar. So nothing breaks, but everything is fake. Right? So, as we get going into this and like pixels go away and cookies go away and everything else, it's not gonna matter because the data that's being fed in eventually is just gonna,
Callum: it's gonna be wrong.
Jon: Big data.
Callum: Yeah, it's gonna be, Yeah. That's really interesting. I, I didn't know Brave did that, so I'm gonna check that out. I mean, that's how fascinates me the way we collect data, it, it isn't changing, but it is a [00:13:00] vault. It isn't. It's a, there's an evolution definitely, from taking data to actually, getting it via, forms and things like that where you, you are giving something back in return, like a quiz or something like that.
I, I love what, Octane do with their quiz, and how, how they try and customize the experience for the user based on the data collected. And I'm sure that's what you guys,
Jon: we actually divert massively from that. I don't believe in personalization. Yeah. Oh wow. That's interesting. Yeah. So we, Quizzes are pre-intent.
Yeah. You're trying to discover what you want. So it's not a viable means of building out personnel. Okay. Cuz you'll take a quiz multiple times. You'll go through, you'll change your answers. You wanna see what your results are different. I always look at this, I'm a golfer, right? And on any golf site they're trying to pair you with every shaft side or ball site is trying to pair you with the right ball or the right [00:14:00] shaft.
Yeah. You go through and you answer the information differently and it comes in that you answer it three different ways to see where you should be fit into stuff. Is any of that data valid or clean? If you've answered it three different ways?
Callum: Yeah, yeah. No, I can see what you mean.
Jon: Yeah, it's a bit of a sticky problem that no one wants to talk about because the narrative that happens and comes from most companies is you should collect data via quizzes so you can personalize content so you can lead to increased sales.
Callum: the, that's what we're all told.
Jon: That's the, it's a, the great sticking point, right? Yeah, it's a great soundbite. It's the same thing as 30% of your sales come from emails and everything else, . The reality is, those people already showing intent. So yeah, you're able to clarify that someone's already showing intent, so they're likely gonna have a higher conversion rate because they've already shown that version of intent.
The quiz isn't causing that. That's correlation causation. They're saying the quiz and the data is causing a higher conversion rate. The correlation is people convert because they're [00:15:00] further down that journey because they've decided to take an intent point to start answering questions to determine what they want.
And in, in marketing, this is the number one thing. Everyone constantly messes up. And this came up on a post-purchase survey, post the other day too, where someone was like, Oh, everyone's responding that TikTok is a thing, but it's not showing in our attribution we should spend more money on TikTok. No, a correlation is that people that are filling out the survey are more active on TikTok and more of that generation, which is giving you that data.
It's a false positive unless you got a hundred per cent opt-in rate and you're able to verify that it doesn't work that way. You're making a rough judgment based on a trend that you think you're reading into. Yeah, and this is the problem with data and marketing as we get through this. Same thing with personalization, personalization's a balance, right?
If I have all the data in the world, I can try to analyse some messages, but after a certain point, I'm gonna be spending so much more time on that personalization that my value [00:16:00] add is gonna diminish. Instead, the way that we look at personalization is we categorize people and segment them into lists, but then we send similar messages to them to understand is there a certain combination within that's leading to a higher result, one way or the other.
Because what you're looking for is combinations of data that lead to revenue. Yeah, it's not gonna be perfect, but that's more of a correlation analysis than it is. I'm personalizing. So of course people are gonna purchase more. They're, they've already signed up. You can't personalize until someone gives you their information.
Your intent is already so high at that portion that if you don't mess up as a company, more than 40% of people are gonna end up converting anyway, as long as your journey's good. Yeah. But at the same time, is it, is it the fact that you personalized via an email that less than 30% of people open?
Or is it the fact that those are the 30% of the people that decided to open that email because they'd already shown intent and gone through the process cuz they were further down the track? [00:17:00] It's a
Callum: really fine line and the narrative is, is obviously sold by. The quiz companies' email marketers
Jon: has to be that.
Callum: That's it.
Jon: Absolutely has to be.
Callum: They want, they wanna own that attribution and they wanna be involved in that attribution.
Jon: I remember when Octane decided at least their thing, cuz we'd come out about three months prior and we'd filed all our provisional paths before that and everything else on, on kind of what we're working on.
And we watched, as, you know, this whole zero-party data thing really came to be. And we bought into it for like half a second. Said, Yeah, it's really good. It's what everyone's talking about. The reality is the pivot that we ended up making kinda behind the scenes and was already going on is data and personalization was a lot of manpower.
Yeah, doesn't help you. If you have that data though, and you're using it in reporting in order to understand your ad spend, and you're looking at intent portions across that customer journey tied into ad spend, and you can naturalize all those results with raw data, [00:18:00] you can start predicting where gaps are in the entire eCommerce journey.
So instead of focusing on personalization and spending more time guessing and hoping and wishing you can spend time actually unlocking intent gaps within your overall journey and start making changes that affect everything on your website rather than one own channel that at max, I think it's stats are like 50% of people overall time will never open one ear emails.
Callum: Wow. Wow. I mean,
there's so much. You've got such powerful marketers, email marketers in our industry. And they control so much of their thought leadership. and I, I think that that area is drummed into us. , especially in the DC brands, you've got certain DTC leaders that, sing that tune, whether they're, , I'm sure they're getting some I don't know whether they do get kickbacks, but [00:19:00] I'm sure they get some nice cities out of it.
But you've got these DTC Twitter and LinkedIn leaders really pushing that rhetoric,
Jon: that the narratives are crazy. They're absolutely crazy. And, you know, and it's different, right? So if you, I always like to think about if you think 30% of your revenue should come from email, you think Klaviyo immediately.
Yeah, That's, they've, they've drawn that in. If you think about why you need a quiz on your site, it's octane. Like they've, they've, they've taken that niche part of the market out. And then there's these narratives that have kind of permeated through and no one's stopped to ask why, how and, and how.
What's your attribution? Yeah. There's attentive is known for saying like 98% of people like, you know, open SMS or whatever it is, right? Like, there's all these random stats that people use. and I mean, we have one on our website too. We say 30, collect 38 per times more data points. That's actually verifiable though, Like I can go through with actual data and stats and show how that's the case.
[00:20:00] But when you're messing with things like attribution where your attribution window is 30 days, and the intent for someone to make a purchase post an intent action. Is usually 28 days, 45 days max, and they're taking away most of that. Of course, you're gonna have the highest numbers in the world, and there's no way to fix that attribution window or change it.
So everything is slighted to show a return on investment from all these different platforms. All of them,
Callum: all of them can't show this massive ROI. That's the problem. So we here at reviews, right? I, I really struggled with this, this question that we're talking about now, which is finding the true ROI of a solution.
And it's difficult, and I agree with you that kind of, we can't all, you know, reviews can't have it. email can't have it. Quizzes can't have it. You know, like not everyone can drive the conversion that they talk about because in which case, we'd all be sharing, they're all sharing the same sort of conversion.
[00:21:00] So, I thought about it long and hard and, we created this solution called full Picture. Now you might blow, blow massive holes in this. So we created the in house and we were like, Right, we work with a, with a few of our partners and we said, Hold on, let's, let's record the sessions on, on this, these customer sites and actually track when that customer's reading a review.
And then we'll track it all the way through the buying process and we'll track it on the checkout page. We'll do a, an attribution form on the checkout page, which is fine. but let's, every time somebody reads a review for more than five seconds, let's go and have a look then at. At that video, let's go and monitor those videos so we can prove that each one actually has read a review that led to an order.
What did that order look like? Comparative to other orders from [00:22:00] customers. And although we, you know, we do show an ROI, the biggest thing that we noticed for us was that average order value went up. Now there is a bias in that because people are spending more, are gonna read more reviews, or are gonna look deeper into the purchase because they're spending more so, It is difficult and getting these stats is, is hard, to show an ROI, but it's something that I'm passionate and really trying to do for reviews.
It's why we created this solution. And then what we'll do eventually is this solution will work with other parts of the tech stack to show a true ROI of those. but don't get me wrong there, there's gonna be a lot of people claiming these numbers, from what I can see already, that, Klaviyo. Email marketing claims it's about 30% On some people it's way more of the attribution where when [00:23:00] we ask on that checkout page, Oh, was it an email marketing? You're like, 2%. But I'm sure you're seeing similar numbers.
Jon: So I, I, I think that we, misinterpret the amount of sway we have to make a customer make a decision.
people don't buy because of a review. They don't buy because of an email. People buy when the timing is right. And the item that you're showing them is something that they were already contemplating on purchasing. Yeah. The only thing that we can get right from a, from a customer journey perspective is making sure all their questions are answered on page.
Making sure there's enough evidence to build trust. Exactly. And to be re and to be relevant and top of mind when they're looking to make a purchase. Yeah. That's it. Yeah.
I, I have a habit of going to a lot of eCommerce product pages. 99% of them are missing full information for me to be able to make a decision right there. And if I have to leave the [00:24:00] website, it kills the experience. And the best product pages tend to get the majority of my business.
Yeah. Unless it's something that someone's already vouched for. So all of these sites that are worried about conversion rates and stuff like that have to ask them a very serious question, which is if all the information was there and the timing was right. And the offer was right and everything else was put together.
What could your conversion rate be? Our little test site that we play around with has a conversion rate of over 7%. It's in a competitive space. Wow. We just built a better experience with it and we know how it works end to end. So, it's the limitations that we have on what's possible in e-commerce exist because we've all been brainwashed to think of the same stats in the same way.
Yeah. We don't make 30% of our revenue from email. You know why we send out flows and I don't count those into revenue. The intent was already there, and we only send out an email once every two weeks, and it's just a company update that connects them with the [00:25:00] founder and the brand. Right. We don't believe in sales, so we don't do them.
Callum: You don't believe in pushing the marketing message, not marketing message, marketing material via the email
Jon: Nah, we, we, we actually did something when I was at Life X. We did this as a test and we ran something called Life X Life, which was a spotlight on a customer that we talked to via customer support that had a good experience.
And we fixed a problem before cuz they were always really nice and I used to get on the phone with them and chat with them on Thursdays and Fridays. Take the hard calls of people that were really mad, you know, and yeah, try to brighten their day. and it turns out a lot of people did, had really cool jobs and they did cool stuff.
And I said, You know what? I'm tired of Hawking sales. Let's just put their picture up there with how they're using our product. Ask 'em a couple questions, what their hobbies are, what they're working on, what they're trying to learn, and you know, where I can follow them on social media. Cause I think people are cool.
Yeah. Those emails made more revenue than everything other than our big still emails [00:26:00] because it was about seeing yourself or someone like you in the brand and picturing yourself. Being part of that brand. Yeah. There, there was no sale. It was just simply presenting a person and saying, Hey, this is what they do for a living.
This is what they're interested in. This is what their hobbies are, this is how you can find them. And it just had a couple of pictures of our stuff. It didn't even, I think the only link back to our site was in the header and that was it. It was, there was no CTA in it.
Callum: Wow. That goes against everything, doesn't it?
If you look at it, you know, Right? It goes against the grain of everything. But I think, I think more brands have gotta start doing this because I think we're all looking too similar. We're all doing the same thing at the same time. we're all doing, abandoned cart emails, They all, every abandoned cart emails look the same.
Jon: the same. So, what if we rethought it for a second? What if we made ads with the goal of getting someone to comment on them? What if we sent out emails with the goal of getting someone to forward them? To someone else. Yeah. I mean, [00:27:00] what if we changed our, I made this I was talking to someone like there's so many comedians that are trying to make it in the, you know, film writing and everything else in and around like LA Yeah.
Are all decent writers. Some of them might be funnier. I mean, those should be your copywriters as a brand. You shouldn't hire a professional copywriter now hire a comedian. Get them to entertain, send out every email that's entertaining and just see what happens. See if one of them goes viral and gets picked up.
Cause you know, it's one of those the other thing we used to do, not entirely intentionally all the time, but typos in an email. Typos in an email, your best friend, it tells you who's actually reading your stuff and you know, when they come back and you get a bunch of people posting about on social and calling you out, people are actually reading your stuff.
Yeah. And we're so concerned with perfection and following a process and doing stuff that we forget that. You need to stand out cuz if no one sees you, no one's gonna know about you. So you gotta start there. Then once people know about you, they need to respect you and like you, [00:28:00] right? It's a little bit harder to do, but as long as you're entertaining, people are gonna come back and eventually, you're gonna grow on people.
great lesson from comedians. Comedians are self-deprecating. Yeah. The funniest ones are extremely self-deprecating and that's what we're looking for in, i§ and to not, be that. Now I use the term brands very, very loosely there because there's two different types of businesses to me.
One is, a business and a company, and the other one is a brand. And you have to be around for more than 10, 15 years to be a brand. I even think things like Allbirds and their recognition is only like 18% of people that know who they are as a brand. San Francisco, you know who they are. But yeah, outside of that, they're not really a brand.
Nike is a brand, Apple is a brand. There's a big difference there. And there's so many small companies that are so concerned with branding rather than focusing on finding their product fit and letting their audience [00:29:00] determine what kind of brand they're gonna be. Yeah. And just going from there, there's no rules.
We had this conversation the other day. 95% of visitors to your website are gonna be brand new for the first time. No one's gonna care about your copy if it's wrong. No one's gonna care about your coffee. A copy if it's different. No one's gonna screenshot that and do a whole case study on how you messed up.
They don't care. Everyone's just gonna move in and cycle. Your, job is to get someone's attention and kind of keep it going. But where I don't see this being used, and I'd love to see this being used more often, landing pages that come from an ad can be correlated to a certain subset of people/interests.
If you're not doing broad, you should go interest-based on this, Have some fun. There are no rules on the branding on that page. Yeah, you can do whatever you want on that page. You can drive as much traffic as you want. You could drive it to a bunch of YouTube videos. You could rickroll people. It does not matter what you do on that page.
Callum: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I get that. We try and think of things differently [00:30:00] and, and try and, like what you're talking about is try and use us when they come in to, to understand that we are different. We're the little guy in our industry.
We are the David, we are up against some massive Goliath. They are thousand-pound gorillas in the room. And
Jon: I've had, They're ancient. They're ancient and they're not thinking quick enough.
Callum: I have to do things differently. I, I agree with that. And, recently for me, we, we've had a, one of the larger competitors, like sending emails, like they're really aggressively trying to go after our customer.
Our customer base is brilliant because most of them have used a review platform in the past, so they know what shit looks like, Right? And then they come to ours. We're refreshing. We talk to them. We try and help them. We don't rip them off. We try and charge sensible amounts. We don't tie them into long contracts.
We have [00:31:00] live support. We don't make people, Every time we talk to you, it's not because we're jacking up the fees. Right. Yeah. But this company's aggressively to pursue progressively. They've gone out, they've bought a list of all of our clients, they've got all the telephone numbers, and they're hardcore hitting the phones.
And it, they're then these companies that they're calling are then sending me the emails of what, Yeah, this, this company's saying, what? This company doesn't realize that, our clients are anti them. But it, I don't wanna be killed by a thousand cuts.
So I said, Right, what can I do? You know, I don't wanna be killed by these, all these messages and these telephone calls that are going in into our competitors. So I thought, I'm gonna, I'm gonna approach this head-on, you know, I've not got millions in marketing. I've not got 200 cold call staff, but I have got a voice and I have got a Twitter account, and I've got a LinkedIn account [00:32:00] and I've got a play.
So I just called it out. I literally had the next day multiple emails in my inbox from, the CEO, of the brand going, What are you doing?
What are you doing? You know, you can't call us out like that. I'm like, Dude, do, I'm a, yeah, I just did. I'm a one-man, not, I'm not one-man band. There's like, I think there's just under 80 of us, but I still try and think like a, a one-man band. You know? I, I'm like, You can't do that. that's not how you should be running a business.
You shouldn't be calling sa. I said, Look, I know what you're doing. You're trying to clear me with a thousand cuts. You know, you're not, you're not posting about it. You're not doing that. I, you, you are playing with your toolset. Now I'm playing with mine, and I, and I just kind of wish that, coming back to what we were talking about, some brands would actually.
Instead of listening to all these playbooks and all these, you know, thought leaders would actually use the tools that they have, you know, look at their business and go, Actually this is how we should look at this industry. This is the [00:33:00] unique take that we should have. and, really, kind of, kind of have a unique voice in the market.
And that's kind of what we've tried to do, at reviews.
Jon: I think it's, it's hard, right? Because you gotta play by some of the rules and you have to, yeah, be nice. And there's e-commerce specifically is a very nichey crowd. And you can quickly find yourself on the outskirts of that crowd. I, I am a loud voice that likes to not throw shade, but question everything that we've currently accepted as being common practice.
Yeah. There's a lot of people and businesses that make a lot of money on common practice and getting everyone and buy into doing everything the same way. I'm not invited to all the things. I'm okay with that. I'm not, I'm not worried about that.
it's this industry and I think it's the difference between like VC and Bootstrap. Bootstrap you can get away with, being by yourself, by your morals and kind of pushing stuff through. And you can be your own voice. Yeah. When, when you have funding behind you, [00:34:00] it's kill or be killed.
And they tend to break the rules and they tend to come up with playbooks that are very, very aggressive in order to make stuff happen, even if it's not the right way to do it. And I have been in meetings and heard all these conversations and understood the incessant need for growth at all costs in order to hit that milestone for the, board and investors and everything else.
And it doesn't always work out well.
Callum: No. And that, that's what we are seeing, you know, We are the only, I think we're the only review platform that's not in taken VC at the moment. So Formtoro, you guys taking anything?
Jon: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it is just two of us and we are just operators. We're operators and, and I learned the experience from, you know, automating support was that if, if you have good data and good automation in there, you can do a lot with a small team and you don't have to worry about, you know, where that's coming from.
Callum: so your, your own customer acquisition, how do you deal with that? Is it all word of mouth? [00:35:00] Is it,
Jon: It is, it's LinkedIn really. Is it, Yeah, I, I mean that's, that's the majority of what we do. it's kind of funny because one-to-one businesses aren't really the people that end up finding us.
it's people that own portfolios of companies. So for us, yeah, so the, the big difference is, they don't understand. They don't understand that if they're, they understand having an email list, but they don't understand having an email list with data and the ability to leverage that email list with data as being a separate standalone asset.
there's a big shift happening within the industry where if you are PE or your money, you understand how important data is in order to a business. Right. But if you're a solo store, data is on your mind, but for the different reasons. Cuz it all ties into conversion rate. Yeah. Whereas if you take something from more of a, a private equity perspective, as soon as they acquire, so e-comm right?
You're exiting usually to private equity or a larger. [00:36:00] Yeah. What ended up happening after you get acquired is they optimize one and change all the processes internally with their own internal processes that have been optimized. Your marketing team gets canned, everyone else gets canned. CEO stays on for about six months during transition, et cetera, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Callum: bring in that playbook, don't they? I've seen it so many times.
Jon: It just happens. So anything that you've done, as all these brands are working, they're thinking, they're building amazing processes, and all the processes aren't gonna matter, at the end of the day, they're getting them from step one to step two.
Yeah. What really matters is how big of a data stack you have. Of customers and, and different things that are tied into that, that you can leverage and that can be leveraged across the portfolio of brands, which inevitably they're acquiring you to combine you with. So, if people knew what they were doing and understood that part of the business as a store, they'd be focusing a lot more on understanding the trends across, their business in order to leverage that data and show how that data can only be leveraged as a standalone asset, but also be leveraged to drive improvement [00:37:00] across their entire, you know, ecosystem and, and website conversion rate and, and situation.
But that's the difficulty is there are some smart people in e-commerce. There's also a lot of lucky people in e-commerce and you know, there's always gonna be that in, in both parts of business. But when people are building a company in E-com, it's very p and l sheet. What's my shipping look like?
What are my profit margins? I guess unit economics is now starting to jump into the conversation, which is great to be hearing more about, but they're not thinking what is gonna be the most valuable to my acquirer down the road and how can I focus relentlessly on building that up and how does that asset that I'm building that's gonna become a standalone asset also impact the rest of my business?
And that's the different thinking of, I'm running a brand and I wanna be a legacy or I'm running a business cuz eventually I wanna make money off this. And so this.
Callum: Yeah. Yeah. Which is a, I don't think most founders know that when they're starting out. I think, I think some of the [00:38:00] second-time founders do, but I think, until you hit 10 to 15 million. I don't think you're thinking about selling or legacy. I think you're just head down trying to grow.
Jon: Yeah. I talked to one guy, great conversation. He had launched a bunch of Kickstarters and Kickstarter. Let's keep the email list. So he was just building his email list via Kickstarters and
Did he ever launch some?
Yeah, he did. So, he launched them. He already did market research, found out the product was most likely gonna work. Did Kickstarter put money into the? Kickstarter reused his existing list. Now, when he launches a product, he basically runs it for six months and then sells the company.
And I mean, the multiples he was selling me were nuts. I mean, he was pocketing about 10 million a year doing this. And it'd be like six months in, six months out.
Callum: Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Yeah.
Jon: So I mean there's, I also know a couple other companies that have been doing similar things in the industry where their biggest, Their biggest advantage to launching stuff is that they [00:39:00] have a pre-made list that they can go launch anything into and cross populate and, and use how they like.
And that's what I'm saying, like everyone that says own data, own data, own data, it's, it's, it means something. But I can tell you there's a large enough gap that exists across eCommerce right now. And like I won't go into details with it cuz we're in the process of like working on some, some side projects around it.
But, no, I
Callum: like that. I like that some, we
Jon: See a huge shift happening that no one's paying attention to right now, and it's gonna be fun to track.
The one space that I'm paying attention to is the rise of SMS in the States.
I don't think SMS is gonna work in other parts of the world. We're already hearing pushback from different places, the costs and, and you know, the, the liabilities behind it. But you know, everyone's like, Oh, SMS is gonna be great. SMS is gonna be great until, someone gets fined a lot of money.
Twitter got fined 150 million for using two-factor the other day to send out text messages. Jiffy Lube got fined for using like [00:40:00] the, the order form stuff to send out text messages. Unsolicited.
Callum: Yeah. The UK, the UK and the EU SMS is nothing like what it is in the I was just talking to someone the other day and they were saying they get a great conversion on Klaviyo SMS in the US and they get terrible conversion in the UK.
Jon: Yeah, I mean, we're talking to people. Even in, in India, they're, they're, they're skipping a WhatsApp directly. They're not even collecting emails anymore. They've already made the shift. They're like, Wow, that's the best route. Brazil is the same way. Brazil, it's WhatsApp and they'll actually give you a call.
They'll give you a call and walk you through until you purchase. And there's people that run call centers when someone signs up on a website, they literally call you and they walk you through on that purchase because that's what they're used to from a commerce perspective. Wow. It, we get trapped in this bubble in e-commerce where we think the US is the biggest market.
So all the tools are based in the US and that's how we have to do everything because that's the best way. Mm-hmm. That's not the that's the company journey. It's not the customer journey. Commerce [00:41:00] is different in all different places in India. It's a lot of cash on delivery, Right? Yeah. And in other places, we change the way that we communicate in China, it's all we at the WeChat, you pay for everything with WeChat, right?
You do everything via WeChat. There isn't one answer I remember. Seven years ago I was in Australia and I didn't need to pay with a card. I could just use Apple Pay everywhere. Apple Pay wasn't everywhere in the US at that time. Yeah. And Apple was in mobile payments back in like, or like early 2011. I was in mobile payments and just to see the difference of how people interacted in different parts of the world.
Cuz at that point, even back then I believe Southeast Asia, specifically Singapore and the wealthier places, all your mobile payments were tied into your, your phone carrier, so you could use them everywhere. And they had already made the telecom move. So we were way behind in terms of how things go.
But anything that I'm hearing is like, Oh, this has to be the way you have to do. Yeah. Or this is the way that this works [00:42:00] instantaneously. It's like a red flag. And the exercise that I like doing around this and I've told people this, it's great. You pick a question, you open a fresh Google tab. And then you open it up in the first three pages and open 'em up in success of tabs.
And then you read all the answers. You put 'em into a spreadsheet. If everything looks the same and sounds the same, everyone's not thinking hard enough and there's a gap.
Callum: Very contrarian. Very contrarian. Awesome. Awesome. I love that. I love that.
Jon: I, every, everything that's old again, is new again. I, I think that there's been a couple things that have been going on kind of in the background and one of the ones I've been paying a lot of attention to for the past, like probably eight years is No-Code and the evolution of No-Code and what's happening that way.
Yeah. Cause you know, Salesforce is dominant position in the CRM market. They're not going anywhere and they've built out a good ecosystem to do that. However, if I was predicting what's gonna happen eventually, and you're seeing it happen right now, people are using [00:43:00] Air Table to build their own CRMs.
People are using other tools to build stuff, to replace,
Callum: you know, notion, Air Table, seeing all of those get used a lot more.
Jon: So I'm saying like, there, there's gonna come a point where. If you wanna customize something, you can customize it on your own via no code, and you're gonna wanna host it on your own or host it very cheaply somewhere else.
And you're not gonna worry about subscription fees for a lot of services. And, I'm, I'm a big proponent of an ecosystem play where you are tapped into an ecosystem to, to leverage that ecosystem so you at least know who you're targeting. And it makes it easier for you to figure out who you're gonna be a good fit for.
But there's a lot to be said about the models that we currently see are working for a specific reason, and eventually, they're gonna stop working. What happens? We, we found out what happened when you know, Instagram went to an ad. Every three people still use Instagram, but they skip every third pretty intuitively now, right?
Like, yeah, customer behaviour changes. could Apple doesn't need the ad revenue. They like it, but they don't need it. [00:44:00] What if they decide to release their own version of something that you know is a little bit better? Reddit's rise. Has been amazing to watch over the last 10 years. Yeah. They have absolutely crushed it since being bought back, buying themselves back from Conde Nast.
Callum: but they were struggling so badly, If you would've said to me that was a good purchase at the Conde Nast, I would've said no. They were going the way of like, Tumblr and all of these, that, that was, that was probably one of the best comebacks ever in tech. I, I don't think there's been a better comeback.
Jon: Well, I mean, they, they hit it. They hit it right in some of the right places. I love Reddit. People. Yeah, everyone thinks everyone on LinkedIn is rah supportive. Everyone on Twitter is a little bit cynical. Everyone on Reddit is shut up. I'm gonna tell you exactly why you're wrong and troll you at the same time, Right?
Callum: Meme troll you at the same time, set fire at you at the same time.
Jon: You gotta have a thick skin. But I, I mean, Reddit is the most entertaining place on the internet, and it's not entertaining for [00:45:00] the posts themselves. It's entertaining for what happens in the comments. And very few platforms have managed to do that.
And it's, it's addicting because there's so many people posting so much stuff with so many comments in these places. And there's a niche for everything that it's, it's, it's really just changed the game in terms of you feel like we had this, I had this conversation or something the other day. I don't have to post in a group to feel like I'm part of that group.
Yeah. In fact, I keep one of my names, even though I've been banned from eCommerce on Reddit. And I got banned for fighting with a mod, who, who just didn't want to, didn't wanna be challenged in terms of like, is there a different way? And the irony is sweet, a couple years later and my other, it's so always funny because you have multiple names and you can be anonymous and that's the best part about Reddit.
[00:46:00] Yeah. So I can be whoever I feel like being and I can post in different, under different names and different, channels. And, and some of 'em, like I have posts that are ranked on top 10, top five all time, like just, just hanging out, But no one needs to know who I am and I can choose to give advice and ask questions and be dumb and, be smart or, or you know, apply people for information and kind of like just massage it and you can't do that other places.
My like dream goal of a social network. Was something similar to like a Reddit LinkedIn mashup where you needed to connect with your LinkedIn account so that you had credentials and you could like, verify certain things that you had experience. Yeah. And then you could pick an anonymous name and you would just get flair that says, 10 years marketing or whatever next to it.
and then people could actually share their real opinions because a lot of stuff is just censored and people are all trying to play a persona. P yeah, that's
Callum: what I was gonna say. People play a, they play a part, don't they? That's why like the VC brags people and the [00:47:00] guys who are blowing other people upon Twitter.
I, I wanted to do one called DTC. DTC brags just to call out some of the
Jon: Oh, it's terrible. It's terrible. But, you know, here's the, the, It's a fine line. Right? Yeah. And I think this is kind of the unfortunate part. We, we, we talked about doing this, Juliana Jackson and I talked about doing this where we just wanted to pick a different website and a bunch of posts that people had posted every week on LinkedIn and just tear them to shreds for being how inaccurate they were, how impossible that was, or how improbable that was.
Yeah. and. I mean, I wouldn't make any friends doing that, but at the same time, like if I see something that's posted and it's like incorrect or wrong, I've gotta comment on it. Like, I think I've, I commented on, there's a well-known person in the space for email, and the advice that was provided via subject line was basically fraud.
And you can't do that. You can't say that there's seven left. If there aren't really [00:48:00] seven left, that's that's broad. You get in trouble. Yeah. Right. And I was like, Stop giving me illegal advice. Like, please just, you just can't do these certain things. And, I think in e-com and d to see specifically, there are very few people that have been in this space for a very long time.
Yeah. There's a ton of people that have been in this space for a very short amount of, And the short amount of time of rapid risers, as I like to call them, got lucky at one company that had product market fit, made their name in that specific company and then believed that that was the way forward for everything.
Every company is individual. Every company has different points of differentiation, different hurdles they need to get over in order to find product market fit. There is not one size meets all for for all these things. No, no. And we treat it all like it. Yeah. Like we treat it all like it is, and we treat it all.
Like, if you put everything into a formula and you do this for your [00:49:00] ads, and you do this for your landing pages, and you do this on your product page, and you do this via your offers and, and your popups, you're gonna, you're gonna make, you're gonna
Callum: Win. Yeah. You're gonna, you're guaranteed. Yeah.
Jon: Cool. Why is it that conversion rates are still looked at as being like 2% is being good and that's a 98% failure rate, and that's just accepted as being like, Okay, why is it that we, we look at things and say,
Callum: Well, it's the old funnel eCommerce stuff, isn't it? It's this, Oh, get 'em in this funnel. Do this, move them to this funnel.
sales, I get this funnel. E-commerce
Jon: is the, the most comical thing ever because we celebrate the lowest numbers in all cases. We celebrate the numbers of oh 2% conversion rate. We celebrate, Oh, we got a 5% sign-up rate. Oh, our, our return customer rate 25%, we're doing awesome, right?
Like, we have a tendency in eCommerce to focus on KPIs that don't matter, instead of focusing on the gap. And the gap is the 75% people that didn't come back, The [00:50:00] 98% of people that didn't convert, the 95% of people that didn't sign up. Those are the questions that unlock gains yet it's not what's focused on, because there are focuses on that one, 2% gain rather than understanding kind of how broken the system is and how we Yeah.
Find the big problem. Solve the big problem.
Callum: Yeah. No, I agree. I agree. I, we're all, there's too many people singing from the same hymn sheet and it, and it's misleading the market, I think at the minute, honestly. Jon, you've been a fantastic guest. We've got so much information out of you, squeezed outta you.
you've been absolutely brilliant. Thank you for coming on the podcast today. the listeners, so if they were gonna follow you, where, where are you most vocal? LinkedIn, Twitter,
Jon: Definitely on LinkedIn. I'm on Twitter. I will get around to it a little bit more, but if you just search Jon Ivanco, you'll come and find me cuz there's only one of me.
Brilliant. [00:51:00] There's not too many people with my last name, so it makes it easy. No, where is just for having me. Where's that last name from? I am Czech, Irish and Serbian. And it comes from Czech.
Callum: Right. Okay. So you've, you've got a. A good mix going on there. That's all I'm gonna say. Right. Thank you so much, Jon.
I really appreciate it. You've been an absolute superstar. I will add show notes in and I will add, your, handles and links to your accounts where people can go off and follow you. Awesome.
Jon: Sounds good.
Callum: Speak soon, Jon. Thank you very much.
Callum: Cheers. Bye.
Callum: Thank you for listening today. In reviews we trust is a bi-weekly podcast where I hope to be bringing you advice and insights from brands that are taking the e-commerce world by storm.